While the majority of your colleagues are finalizing holiday vacations, preparing dinner menus and ducking out during lunch breaks to finish the last of their shopping, sales professionals often spend the final days of the year hunched over their desks analyzing a shrinking pipeline.

Because B2B sales cycles continue to grow—many of them now lasting longer than 12 months—what you do in the next few weeks can have a real impact on your sales numbers next year.

Now is the time savvy sales pros to get a jump on 2018. Here are four tips to keep the pipeline full this holiday season, while priming prospects for deeper connections starting in January.

  1. Pick up the phone

Set aside time to make phone calls to prospects and customers and say hello. Only 24% of sales emails are opened, and even fewer are read. Slower holiday office schedules mean the people on the other end who are in their offices are more likely to pick up and have the thoughtful conversations that aren’t possible when you only have five minutes between back-to-back meetings. This is the time of year to dig deeper so you can better understand prospects’ and customers’ business needs—and make more personal connections.

  1. Consider candidates for upsells

The best sales performers know upsells can add significant revenue without incurring the high cost of acquiring new customers. However, it’s a delicate dance to understand when to step in with a more comprehensive offer vs. when proposing something additional could damage the relationship. Sales pros who are most successful at the art of the upsell understand that timing is everything. The best path to success is to:

  • Anticipate the needs of current customers and prospects
  • Make personalized offer packages
  • Remove as much risk as possible from upsell proposals to ensure the offer will be well received

While that sounds like a lot of speculation (after all, you’re a sales person not a fortune teller), there are ways to manage information to gain deeper insight. In addition to live conversations (both on the phone and in person), look at the capabilities of your CRM platform to better mine available data. In addition, leverage solutions that offer AI capabilities that make predictive suggestions based on factors such as key milestones along the customer journey that will help you better understand what to offer and when to make contact.

  1. Schedule appointments now for January

Sales pros spend a lot of time—way too much, in fact—of their time scheduling calls, and that’s the last thing you have time for in January when business kicks back into high gear. Use the quieter time now to reach out and start the scheduling process so your meeting is on the books before the office goes dark for the year, and ensure you meet with the right people while budgets are still available for 2018.

With all the out-of-office messages, consider an intelligent online scheduling solution. This lets customers respond to your meeting request by picking the time that works best for them, which avoids annoying games of phone or email tag. The added bonus of automated scheduling is you can fill the pipeline even while you’re on vacation.

  1. Ask current customers for referrals

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! While the percentage of deals closed are significantly higher from leads generated from referrals, it’s up to you to make the ask. Data suggests that following a positive experience, 83 percent of customers are willing to provide a referral. However, only 29 percent of willing customers are asked. That’s a potential loss of referrals from more than 50 percent of happy clients. If you’ve taken the time to call or meet with them during the holiday season, don’t make this small, but costly mistake.

And while we can’t guarantee you’ll come in over quota for the year, there’s a good chance that if you follow these tips, your sales pipeline will be healthier in January, following a holiday binge on Netflix and leftovers!

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